Students victorious as downgraded exams replaced by teacher estimates

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her deputy, John Swinney, were forced to backtrack after initially branding the process 'credible'.

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Tens of thousands of school pupils whose exam results were downgraded will have them replaced by teachers’ estimates.

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, education secretary John Swinney apologised to the students for the SQA’s controversial moderation system.

He said: “We set out to ensure that the system was fair. We set out to ensure it was credible. But we did not get it right for all young people.

“Before I go any further, I want to apologise for that.

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“In speaking directly to the young people affected by the downgrading of awards – the 75,000 pupils whose teacher estimates were higher than their final award – I want to say this: I am sorry.”

In response to Swinney’s 18-page statement, Jamie Greene, the Scottish Conservatives’ education spokesperson, branded it the “longest resignation speech in history, minus the resignation”.

MSPs later voted to debate a motion of no confidence over his handling of the exam results on Thursday. The motion was passed unanimously.

The SQA will issue fresh certificates to those affected as soon as possible.

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Swinney added: “And, importantly, will inform Ucas and other admission bodies of the new grades as soon as practical in the coming days to allow for applications to college and university to be progressed.”

Grades that were moderated up will not be reduced.

The education secretary added that provision would be made to allow for the necessary university and college places in Scotland, so those whose grades have been changed will not be “crowded out”.

Glasgow: Students staged a protest over the moderation process.

Last Tuesday, around 138,000 school pupils received the results of their National, Higher and Advanced Higher courses after an exam-free year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Although pass rates were up, the moderation system produced by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and approved by the Scottish Government saw 26.2% of grades changed.

The SQA downgraded 124,564 results – 93.1% of all the moderated grades – based on criteria including schools’ historic performances.

Pupils from the most deprived areas of Scotland had their grades reduced by 15.2% compared with 6.9% in the most affluent parts of the country.

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In response, opposition politicians branded the moderation process a “train wreck” as well as “disturbing and grossly unequal”.

On Friday, hundreds of pupils took to Glasgow’s George Square to protest the methodology – which was only revealed on results day.

Scottish Labour also tabled a vote of no confidence in Swinney, backed by the Scottish Conservatives.

Initially, Swinney and Nicola Sturgeon defended the system, branding it “credible”.

Swinney said without the moderation, the pass rates compared to 2019 would have been “an annual change never been seen in Scottish exam results”.

The First Minister claimed had the moderation process not been in place, she would have been announcing that 85% of young people in the most deprived areas had passed Highers this year compared to around 65% last year.

Instead, around 70% of young people from the most deprived areas passed their Highers.

Scottish Government: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her deputy, John Swinney, initially defended the moderation system.

Both Sturgeon and Swinney stressed the appeals process would allow eligible pupils to challenge their results if they were downgraded from teachers’ estimates.

However, both the First Minister and her deputy later backtracked.

On Sunday, Swinney said he had “heard the anger of students” and said each of them deserved a grade that reflected the work they had done.

He stated: “These are unprecedented times and as we have said throughout this pandemic, we will not get everything right first time.”

The following day, Sturgeon apologised and said too much focus was given to the system rather than the individuals.

She said: “Despite our best intentions, I do acknowledge we did not get this right and I’m sorry for that.

“The most immediate challenge is to resolve the grades awarded to pupils this year. 

“We will not expect every student who has been downgraded to appeal.”

Former Scottish Tory leaders Ruth Davidson and Jackson Carlaw both called on Swinney to resign following his statement.

Davidson tweeted: “A total U-turn on the position Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney had doubled down on for days. 

“Welcome relief for pupils who’ve been put through the wringer. But be in no doubt, this is a shambles and an honourable man would have offered his resignation.”

Carlaw added: “U-turn on the education bill. U-turn on curriculum choice. U-turn on blended learning. U-turn on shambolic SQA results. 

“John Swinney has presided over a shambles in Scottish education, over several years. He must resign.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard claimed the no confidence motion forced Swinney’s U-turn.

He stated: “But Swinney has lost all credibility and isn’t the one to fix this.

“At 5pm, the Scottish Parliament bureau will propose that motion is heard on Thursday. Blocking motion from debate would be anti-democratic.”

The Scottish Greens called for the Scottish Government to hold an urgent review into the fiasco and into the exams system as a whole.

Swinney said that a current review being conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) into the Curriculum for Excellence would be expanded to “include recommendations on how to transform the Scottish approach to assessment and qualifications, based on best practice globally”.

He also said that an investigation will be undertaken to look at how this year’s awards were handed out.

He said: “Coronavirus has not gone away and, while we expect next year’s exams to go ahead, we need to put in place the right plans to make sure we don’t find ourselves in the same situation again.”

Swinney said a “rapid consultation exercise” with teachers will start this week, looking at removing parts of course assessment and adjusting the volume of evidence required in coursework.

He also announced a full independent review chaired by Professor Mark Priestly of Stirling University to look into the circumstances of this year’s awards, including the approach taken to estimate pupils’ grades, the impact the process had on young people and their families, and the transparency of the process.

MSPs to vote on proposed five-tier coronavirus system

The plan, outlined by the First Minister last week, aims to control the spread of the virus in Scotland.

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Vote: MSPs to decided on proposed coronavirus tier system.

MSPs are set to vote on a proposed five-tier system which aims to control coronavirus in Scotland. 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon outlined the proposed system last week, which if voted through would come into force on November 2.

The plan ranges from life being “closest to normal” without a vaccine at level zero to almost a full lockdown at level four, when non-essential shops would close.

Level two will be similar to current rules outside central Scotland, with level three likened to those inside the central belt, where pubs and restaurants are closed.

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On Tuesday, MSPs will vote on whether to adopt the new proposals.

Under the plans, council areas in Scotland will each be given their own alert rating, with restrictions designed to match the risk of Covid spreading locally.

However, the whole country could be placed in the same level if necessary, the First Minister has warned. 

Under the proposed five tier system, schools would not close, even under the strictest measures.


Race against time to raise £1.7m for abandoned estate

Locals want to buy the property to prevent another holiday home in the area.

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The Killundine Estate in Morvern has lain bare for years.

A small rural community in the western Highlands has until Saturday to find £1.7m to rescue an abandoned estate.

Nestled in 6000 acres of forest moorland, the Killundine Estate in Morvern has lain bare for years.

Locals are attempting to buy the land and have been awarded £1m by the Scottish Land Fund to go towards the £2.7m asking price.

They want to stop more properties in the area being turned into holiday homes. But they face a race against time to find the money.

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Alasdair Firth, from Morvern Community Woodlands, the group behind the project, said the increase in holiday homes had made it challenging for locals to buy in the area.

He said: “It’s very hard for people who live here to afford to buy a house.

“It’s difficult for people to compete with this house market, where prices are so high.

“There’s a critical mass of people that you need to have all the services that the community wants to have and need, and we are getting to a point where we are losing that.

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“The estate could be used by local people to live in. We want all these buildings redeveloped, with people living and working. Hopefully the people that are here and want to stay here can stay here.”

As the number of holiday homes in the peninsula increase, it’s causing other problems. With fewer families arriving, the school roll has dropped in recent years. Where it once stood at 25, this year only 11 children will attend.

Keith Adams, Lochaline Primary School head teacher, said: “We had a family in recently, it was the first we’ve had into the area for two or three years – it used to be revolving doors here.

“That’s stopped and I can only put that down to the affordable housing.

“I always see the school as the heart of the community and we try to be that, so if the school becomes smaller and smaller, then the heart of the community becomes smaller.”

Despite covering 250 sq m of land, only around 320 people call Morvern home.

There are jobs in mining and fishing, but with the population dwindling, it’s having an impact on the industries.

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Veronique Walraven, who works at the mine and is part of the estate buyout project, said: “The percentage of the working age in Morvern is getting smaller and the older population is getting bigger.

“If nothing does change, if we are not proactive, then in the whole of the Highlands the working age population will shrink considerably – that will have a huge effect on businesses.”


Fourteen charged over alleged paedophile ring in Glasgow

Nine men and five women make court appearances in connection with alleged child sex offences.

SNS group via Police Scotland
Police have made 14 arrests in connection with alleged paedophile ring in Glasgow area.

Fourteen people have been arrested and charged in connection with an alleged paedophile ring operating in Glasgow.

Nine men and five women appeared in court over an 11-day period spanning from October 9-20.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We can confirm 14 people have been arrested and charged in connection with alleged child sexual offences in the Glasgow area.”

The charges are as follows:

  • A 36-year-old woman and 47-year-old man have been arrested and charged and were due to appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Friday, October, 9.
  • Five men aged 38, 42, 43, 47 and 54 have been arrested and charged and were due to appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Monday, October 12.
  • Three other women, aged 35, 49 and 48 have also been arrested and charged and were due to appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Tuesday, October 13.
  • A 50-year-old man has been arrested and charged and was due to appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Wednesday, October 14.
  • A 39-year-old woman and a 44-year-old man have been arrested and charged and were due to appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Thursday, October 15.
  • A 44-year-old man has been arrested and charged and was due to appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Tuesday, October, 20.

Lanarkshire ‘considered for level four restrictions’

Leaked documents say tier four restrictions for North and South Lanarkshire 'cannot be ruled out'.

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Covid-19: Lanarkshire facing toughest restrictions.

North and South Lanarkshire are the only two areas being considered for level four of the Scottish Government’s new Covid-19 restrictions, according to a leaked report.

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) documents also suggest that most of the country, including Glasgow and Edinburgh, is set for “tier three” of the new measures, meaning a continuation of current restrictions.

However, while the letter to council leaders states that the situation in Lanarkshire “may be stabilising”, it says the use of level four restrictions ”cannot be ruled out”.

It also says that rising numbers in Dundee is “causing concern”.

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The Scottish Government will lay out which areas will be subject to the new coronavirus tier system in a parliamentary debate on Tuesday.

COSLA has written to council leaders, giving them a strong indication of what tier of restrictions their authorities will be subject to.

Level three of the tier system would mean alcohol sales both indoors and outdoors will not be permitted, although some restaurants may be able to open under strict conditions.

Level four is closest of the levels to a full lockdown, similar to the one introduced at the end of March, with non-essential shops being forced to close.

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Socialising would not be allowed in people’s homes, but six people from two households could still meet outdoors and there would be no limit on outdoor exercise.

Non-essential travel would be banned and there could be limits on the distance people can travel, as well as guidance to stay at home.

Schools will remain open and some outdoor meeting will be allowed.

The confidential letter reads: “I hope it will be helpful if I set out the approach being taken to these decisions.

“The starting point is the measures currently in place. These are broadly equivalent to Level 3 in the central belt, and Level 2 elsewhere.

“Changes from these levels, whether up or down, need to be justified by the data, supported by public health advice and consistent with the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 Framework for Decision-Making.

“Because of the severity of the impact of the measures in the highest level, Level 4, Ministers will only consider using it if necessary.

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“The data currently indicate that level of concern for two areas: Level 4 is being considered for North and South Lanarkshire.

“There are, however, some signs in the latest data that the situation in those areas may be stabilising.

“Ministers will not reach a decision for these two areas until the latest possible point to ensure that they can take account of the fullest possible picture of the effect of measures already in place; but at this stage the use of Level 4 cannot be ruled out.

“If it was necessary, it would be used to avoid still greater harm, including many deaths.

“No changes are currently being considered in relation to other central belt areas. If that remains the case and is confirmed later this week, these areas would remain in Level 3 for the time being.

“There are some signs in the data of progress in the east of the central belt area, for example in Edinburgh and East Lothian, but some further consolidation of that progress is likely to be required before it would be safe, on public health grounds, to move them to Level 2.

“The data for Dundee City also gives cause for concern, with rising numbers of cases.

“Again, a final decision will be made on the basis of data becoming available in the next few days.

“Meantime, consideration is being given to moving Dundee City to Level 3 in the new framework, broadly equivalent to the measures currently in place in the central belt.

“Further consideration is also being given to the interaction between Dundee and neighbouring areas within the Tayside Health Board area.

“At this crucial stage in suppressing the virus, with higher case numbers, the winter approaching, and the introduction of a new strategic framework, the public health advice to Ministers is that it would not be safe to move any area straight to the lowest level, Level 0.”

By Local Democracy Reporter Joseph Anderson.


Investment strategy ‘will create tens of thousands of jobs’

Trade minister Ivan McKee will set out the plan to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday afternoon.

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Investment: Plan to attract inward investment could create tens of thousands of jobs.

A new strategy to attract inward investment to Scotland is due to be published on Tuesday, with the Scottish Government claiming it will create tens of thousands of new jobs.

Trade minister Ivan McKee will set out the plan to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday afternoon.

He said it will play an important part in driving Scotland’s economic recovery after the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr McKee said: “Scotland has been the UK’s top destination for inward investment outside London for the past seven years.

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“Inward investors already complement our existing industrial base, providing 34% of our jobs and 77% of our exports, but we can do better.

“The new strategic approach I am announcing today will build on our strengths, create tens of thousands of jobs and spread the benefits of inward investment more evenly across the country.”

He added: “It aims to create high-value, skilled jobs in growing sectors and attract businesses that share our progressive, outward-looking values.

“With global economies still being impacted by coronavirus, and the end of the Brexit transition period looming, this plan is designed to play an important part in driving Scotland’s economic recovery.”


More than 1050 people in hospital with coronavirus

The First Minister confirmed the latest figures at the daily briefing.

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The number of patients in hospital with coronavirus has risen to 1052, as Scotland recorded more than 1000 new cases.

It’s a rise of 36, with 90 people receiving treatment in intensive care. Meanwhile, another person confirmed to have the virus has died.

The latest figures, which saw the country record 1122 positive test results, were revealed by the First Minister at the daily briefing.

The death toll under the measure of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days has risen to 2701.

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Of the new cases recorded, 428 were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 274 in Lanarkshire, 105 in Lothian and 97 in Ayrshire and Arran.

Bar opens its doors to protest coronavirus lockdown rules

Buck's Bar in Glasgow handed out complimentary meals to people in need to highlight curbs on the hospitality sector.

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A Glasgow bar opened its premises in breach of local coronavirus lockdown rules to protest curbs on the hospitality sector.

The owners of Buck’s Bar in Glasgow handed out free meals to those in need on Monday.

The owner of the bar, located on the city’s West Regent Street, said he was inspired to protest the restrictions after being contacted by a nurse who works in an intensive care unit.

Michael Bergson said: “She basically told me the amount of admissions they were getting in through attempted suicide and overdoses was starting to eclipse the amount of Covid patients they were getting.

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“It made us realise the lack of social interaction is causing an incredible amount of damage and hospitality is vital to (easing) that.

“We hope the government will start to listen, to recognise all the measures the entire industry has put in place. We hope they’ll realise it doesn’t matter what you are – a cafe, a restaurant, a shop, a pub – if you have the correct safety measures in place you should be allowed to trade.”

Mr Bergson also called on the Scottish Government to review the restrictions associated with Level Three of the framework being debated at parliament on Tuesday, saying it is “completely unworkable for the hospitality industry”.

He said: “The three-tier system cause outrage in our industry in England, with Tier Two hospitalities generally complaining ‘we can’t make money’.

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“We seem to have made something that’s more draconian and even more restrictive. They need to start listening to the will of the people. You can see from the response we’ve had to this that the general public believe hospitality is being made a scapegoat and that is unfair.”

The protest comes after five hospitality industry bodies joined together to launch legal proceedings against the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Beer & Pub Association, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, UKHospitality (Scotland), Scottish Hospitality Group and Night Time Industries Association Scotland served notice of the action last Wednesday.

They say coronavirus restrictions imposed on the licensed trade sector have placed businesses under intense pressure and left many fighting for survival.

The trade bodies launched their action after receiving an opinion by legal expert Aidan O’Neill QC.

A deadline of 4pm on Wednesday, October 28 has been set for a response from the Scottish Government, with a petition for a judicial review being submitted if none is forthcoming.

Celtic financial results show impact of coronavirus on club

The Glasgow club posted a narrow pre-tax profit but saw revenue drop sharply.

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Celtic say their financial results are 'satisfactory'.

Celtic chairman Ian Bankier says the club must proceed and invest with a degree of caution after their latest financial results revealed the impact coronavirus has has on the club.  

For the year ending June 30, pre-tax profits fell to £100,000 from £11.2m the previous year.

Revenue dropped by 15.8% to £70.2m from £83.4m while operating expenses including wages fell 7.3% to £80.5m.

Celtic still have around £18m in the bank and revealed that they had increased their borrowing ability to £13m, which remains unused.

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Bankier said the pandemic and subsequent shutdown of football had unsurprisingly had “an adverse impact on operations and the balance sheet”.

He said the plunge in profits was “largely attributable to the value destructive impact” of the virus but said that: “Nevertheless, these results are satisfactory in the circumstances at hand.”

The club chairman said that Celtic’s strong financial position before the pandemic had offered “a degree of protection” but also warned that given the inherent uncertainty of the current environment, we must proceed and invest with a degree of caution. 

Though Celtic took in £24.2m over the financial year from player sales, the club spent £20.7m.

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Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell added to Bankier’s warnings.

He wrote: “The year ahead is unpredictable and Celtic are not immune to the extent of the challenges that we could face at many levels. Whilst we will continue to invest and not deviate from our strategy, we are also cognisant that we may have to endure the Covid-19 restrictions for longer than we would all hope and therefore must balance our desire to progress the club against long-term sustainability.

“The transfer market is likely to be unpredictable as clubs around Europe struggle to adapt and many of the key stakeholders in European football are expected to be inward facing and adopting defensive strategies.

“It is important that Celtic’s interests and that of Scotland’s are represented within European football and through my role at the European Club Association, I will continue to promote these interests.”

More on:

Father delivers baby daughter in nature reserve car park

Andrew Still delivered baby Eliza at Lochwinnoch Nature Reserve, which has been listed as her place of birth.

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Special delivery: Father delivered daughter at nature reserve.

A father who delivered his newborn baby in a nature reserve car park has listed it as his daughter’s official birthplace.

Andrew Still, 32, had to pull over on the way to the hospital and help wife Sara, 31, deliver baby Eliza as she began to emerge.

He stopped at Lochwinnoch Nature Reserve in Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire, where the baby was born and had to wrap her in a picnic blanket until medics arrived.

Baby Eliza, the couple’s second child, arrived safely weighing 5lbs 14oz and her proud parents even had the nature reserve put on her birth certificate.

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The pair said their hypnobirthing lessons helped during the dramatic delivery.

Stay-at-home father Andrew said: “It was a bit overwhelming. it’s something nobody expects to do.

“It’s still not really sunk in that it actually happened.

“With Covid going on there’s a lot of people we haven’t seen and are still telling people about it.

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“I think the hypnobirthing classes put us in a more settled state.”

The couple, from Largs, North Ayrshire, were on their way to Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, Renfrewshire, when Sara told Andrew to stop.

Sara said Andrew was tempted to “put the foot down” to make it to the hospital but stopped at the popular bird watching reserve and called an ambulance instead.

Civil servant Sara, also mum to Ezra, aged three, said the experience wasn’t traumatic and was glad it worked out the way it did.

Sara said: “My husband got our wee boy ready for nursery and we had breakfast but within half an hour I started getting contractions.

“I phoned Andrew and said ‘we’ve got to go to the hospital’.

“By the time we set off I told Andrew we weren’t going to make it and he’ll need to stop.

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“The temptation was there to put the foot down but he pulled over and phoned the ambulance.

“Andrew said he felt quite panicked but I thought he was good.

“In hindsight he’s so glad he did it.

“We only had picnic blankets and wrapped [Eliza] up until the ambulance crew arrived.

“It was quite peaceful. At that time in the morning nobody was around.

“It wasn’t traumatic, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“A lot of our friends have said their partners would have fainted if that was them.

“In the hypnobirthing he had a big part to play.

“I expected to be in hospital with everything around me but the hypnobirthing helped a lot with the birthing techniques and there’s a relaxation CD I listen to in the car.

An RSPB Lochwinnoch spokesman said: “We would like to share our congratulations once again with the family.

“It was great to meet all four when they returned to the reserve and we are delighted that mother and baby are doing well.”


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